Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Convenience Store Woman

by Sayaka Murata

The English-language debut of an exciting young voice in international fiction, selling 660,000 copies in Japan alone, Convenience Store Woman is a bewitching portrayal of contemporary Japan through the eyes of a single woman who fits in to the rigidity of its work culture only too well.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 176
  • Publication Date June 12, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2825-6
  • Dimensions 5" x 7"
  • US List Price $20.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date June 12, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6580-0
  • US List Price $0.00

About the Book

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Tags Literary

Praise

A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
An Indies Introduce Title
An Indie Next Pick
An Amazon Best Book of the Month (Literature and Fiction)
An Elle Magazine Best Summer Book Pick
One of Vogue’s Books to Thrill, Entertain, and Sustain You This Summer

“Keiko, a defiantly oddball 36-year-old woman, has worked in a dead-end job as a convenience store cashier in Tokyo for half her life. She lives alone and has never been in a romantic relationship, or even had sex. And she is perfectly happy with all of it . . . Written in plain-spoken prose, the slim volume focuses on a character who in many ways personifies a demographic panic in Japan.”—Motoko Rich, New York Times

“Alienation gets deliciously perverse treatment in Convenience Store Woman . . . Murata herself spent years as a convenience store employee. And one pleasure of this book is her detailed portrait of how such a place actually works. Yet the book’s true brilliance lies in Murata’s way of subverting our expectations . . . With bracing good humor . . . Murata celebrate[s] the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves.”—John Powers, NPR

“The novel borrows from Gothic romance, in its pairing of the human and the alluringly, dangerously not. It is a love story, in other words, about a misfit and a store . . . Keiko’s self-renunciations reveal the book to be a kind of grim post-capitalist reverie: she is an anti-Bartleby, abandoning any shred of identity outside of her work . . . It may make readers anxious, but the book itself is tranquil—dreamy, even—rooting for its employee-store romance from the bottom of its synthetic heart.”—Katy Waldman, New Yorker

“Murata draws a poignant portrait of what happens when a woman’s oppression meets a man’s grievance—and one of them has to give . . . It seems all too fitting that Murata’s disaffected man, Shiraha, lashes out at a cold world with demands and reproach, while the female narrator quietly seeks out a space within that unwelcoming world where she can contribute. To anyone living in the world today, in Japan or the U.S., it should come as little surprise that the sharpest consequences for a man’s pain and a woman’s pain both fall, in the end, on women.”—Claire Fallon, Huffington Post

“Brilliant, witty, and sweet in ways that recall Amélie and Shopgirl. Keiko, a Tokyo woman in her 30s, finds her calling as a checkout girl at a national convenience store chain called Smile Mart: Quirky Keiko, who has never fit in, can finally pretend to be a normal person. Her story of conforming for convenience (literally) is one that woman all over the world know all too well, as is her family’s pressure to get married and settle down, but Murata’s sparkly writing and knack for odd, beautiful details are totally her own.”—Vogue

“An exhilaratingly weird and funny Japanese novel about a long-term convenience store employee. Unsettling and totally unpredictable—my copy is now heavily underlined.”—Sally Rooney, Guardian

“A quiet masterpiece that offers a refreshing perspective on human nature through the disarming observations of a social misfit . . . Seldom has a narrator been so true to a lack of self, and so triumphantly other. This strange heroism may explain why the differences between Keiko Furukura and the reader gradually dwindle, and we come to perceive just how tenuous and unconsidered our own attitudes and constructs are, how curious our claims of personhood, and how odd and improbable our own story.”—David Wright, Seattle Times

“Reading Convenience Store Woman—a spare, quietly brilliant novel about an offbeat woman whose life revolves around the convenience store she works at—is like being lulled into a soft calm . . . Though she feels like the odd one out, it’s her frank appraisal of the systems of the world that reveals the absurdity of everyone else. Why has society at large agreed to live by these arbitrary rules? And why does everyone else treat Keiko’s rejection of these rules like a threat?”—BuzzFeed

“This magical little book performs this neat accordion track in sentences so clean and crisp it’s like they were laminated and placed before you, one at a time, in a well-windex’d cooler. And thus Sayaka Murata has written the 7-11 Madame Bovary . . . This is a love story. Only the love affair here is between a woman and the convenience store in which she works.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

“Sayaka Murata’s novel Convenience Store Woman playfully illustrates the daily routines and ruminations of an eccentric Tokyo salesclerk.”—Elle

“A personal favorite . . . The prose is as crisp as is the aesthetic of [Japan]”—Lauren Christensen, CBS This Morning

“Sayaka Murata’s brilliant Convenience Store Woman can be read as a meditation on the world of personal branding . . . It has been seen as a Gothic romance between a ‘misfit and a store’ and as a fictionalized account of how young people in Japan are increasingly giving up on sex, to name just two readings. It’s a sign of excellent literature to be able to effortlessly hold up multiple interpretations at once. Murata’s book is no exception: It’s all of these things while also rendering an artful grotesque of modern personal branding.”—The Millions

Convenience Store Woman subverts the status quo with the lowliest of settings and the most unlikely warrior. Cunning and seductive . . . [it] joins the literature of refusal, along with Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ (the clerk who ‘prefers not to’), Beckett’s minimal humans, who dwell in trash bins and sand heaps, and Kafka’s hapless office workers, who try to remain invisible while being watched . . . Murata’s comedy brilliantly reverses the notion that we lose ourselves as cogs in a machine. In anonymity, Keiko slips the knot of convention. For her, the rescue is in the catastrophe.”—Laurie Stone, Women’s Review of Books

“A novel that proves sylphlike; spare in its contents, with a masterfully deceptive comic veneer that keeps the reader turning the page. Even with peculiar and macabre elements aplenty . . . Murata has penned an unlikely feminist tale that unflinchingly depicts the social constructs of being a single woman.”—Zyzzyva

“Can a 36-year-old woman find happiness working at a ‘Smile Mart’ for the rest of her life? That’s the sneakily subversive proposition floated in this sly little novel.”—Newsday

“Engaging . . . A sure-fire hit of the summer.”—Irish Times

“Keiko Furukura loves her job. In fact, she started at the Smile Mart when she was 18 and now she’s 36, and there’s nowhere else she’d rather be . . . Despite her complete lack of normal emotions and responses she’s always trying to be more like other people, which is why she succumbs to the pressure to find a man and settle down. She finds him, of course, at the convenience store, but once she’s married, they make her leave the job, and that’s when the trouble starts.”—WYPR, “Weekly Reader”

Convenience Store Woman may seem like a light and easy summer read about a Japanese shopgirl, but is actually a cutting commentary on the pressure society puts on its citizens, particularly single women . . . Offers a sharp observation into this small slice of Japanese life.”—South China Morning Post

“A deceptively breezy novel . . . The book is a sly commentary on social pressures for conformity in Japan, told through the engrossing first-person character portrait of Keiko Furukura . . . Convenience Store Woman, though spare, holds outsized lessons about worth, work, expectations, and contentment that translate well into our changing U.S. economy. Keiko takes the reader through an eye-opening and unconventional argument about what does—and doesn’t—make a happy life.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A slim, spare and difficult-to-define little book, both very funny and achingly sad in turns, told from the point of view of a woman who’s trying to find her place in the world . . . This empathetic novel is also a touching exploration of loneliness and alienation, feelings and conditions that, for better or for worse, can be recognized by people worldwide.”—Book Reporter

“A refreshing narrator with a fascinating voice . . . Together, Murata and her protagonist lead a novel that is delightfully candid and unexpectedly empowering, a feminist tale that blooms inside the small world of a 24-hour convenience store . . . This is Keiko’s very own hero’s journey, a brilliantly crafted one that defies standards for women.”—Harvard Crimson

“With its understated prose and frequently deadpan narration, many moments of Convenience Store Woman are simultaneously sweet and darkly funny . . . This slim novel [has] a startling heft . . . Possessed by a weird, marvelous momentum.”—New York Journal of Books

“Full of wisdom about our modern age . . . Murata’s brief, whimsical, deeply insightful and pleasantly thought-provoking novel reminds us what torture social life can be for those too honest and authentic to be deluded by its trappings.”—PopMatters

“Murata’s strange and quirky novel was a runaway hit in Japan, and Ginny Tapley Takemori’s English translation introduces it to a new group of readers—a slim, entrancing read that can be consumed in one sitting.”—Passport

“An achievement . . . Murata’s just-below-the-surface acerbity is most skillfully deployed in examining how what we do distorts what we are . . . The result is more than just brief, breezy, and pithy—it is a look at how extraordinarily frightening ordinary is turning out to be.”—Arts Fuse

“Unlike the youthfully airy heroines in the novels of writer Banana Yoshimoto, Keiko is almost a Kafkaesque character, deadly earnest in absurd circumstances . . . Murata shines in describing the setting—the ‘pristine aquarium’—that is Keiko’s sole link to existence. In smooth, lucid prose, the convenience store comes to life in its inner workings and sounds, from the tinkle of the door chime to the beeps of the bar code scanner and the rattle of bottles in the refrigerator.”—Japan Times

“A sweet, charming, and insightful book about comfort zones and the pressure to conform.”—HelloGiggles

“The character of Furukura is a delight. She is original and charming but never gimmicky or twee . . . Too accomplished to boil down to a single message, but this seems to be one idea that runs through it. People say a lot of things—some true, some misguided, some calculating and cruel. This is an unavoidable part of living in a society. The challenge is to listen past those voices and balance their demands with whatever higher calling we hear beyond.”—Nippon.com

“Murata’s slim and stunning Akutagawa Prize-winning novel follows 36-year-old Keiko Furukura, who has been working at the same convenience store for the last 18 years, outlasting eight managers and countless customers and coworkers . . . Murata’s smart and sly novel, her English-language debut, is a critique of the expectations and restrictions placed on single women in their 30s. This is a moving, funny, and unsettling story about how to be a ‘functioning adult’ in today’s world.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The prestigious Akutagawa Prize-winning Murata, herself a part-time ‘convenience store woman,’ makes a dazzling English-language debut in a crisp translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori rich in scathingly entertaining observations on identity, perspective, and the suffocating hypocrisy of ‘normal’ society.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism, told through one woman’s 18-year tenure as a convenience store employee . . . Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others . . . Murata skillfully navigates the line between the book’s wry and weighty concerns and ensures readers will never conceive of the ‘pristine aquarium’ of a convenience store in quite the same way. A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Murata’s writing, nicely rendered by Takemori’s translation, uses the characters of Keiko and Shiraha to deliver a thought-provoking commentary on the meaning of conforming to the expectations of society. While Murata’s novel focuses on life in Japanese culture, her storytelling will resonate with all people and experiences.”—Library Journal

“A compelling novel about conformity in society, and the baffling rules applied in work and life . . . This brief, brisk novel is an engrossing adventure into an unusual mind. Is it a subversive, satiric criticism of societal norms? Is it a surrealist take on extreme workplace culture? Or simply the perspective of a woman wired a little bit differently? Murata holds the reader rapt, wondering what Keiko will do next. Convenience Store Woman is for all kinds of readers, for anyone who’s ever questioned the status quo.”—Shelf Awareness

Convenience Store Woman is a gem of a book. Quirky, deadpan, poignant, and quietly profound, it is a gift to anyone who has ever felt at odds with the world—and if we were truly being honest, I suspect that would be most of us.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

“What a weird and wonderful and deeply satisfying book this is. Sayaka Murata is an utterly unique and revolutionary voice. I tore through Convenience Store Woman with great delight.”—Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and All Grown Up

“A darkly comic, deeply unsettling examination of contemporary life, of alienation, of capitalism, of identity, of conformity. We’ve all been to this convenience store, whether it’s in Japan or somewhere else.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

“This is a story about what’s normal and not, a drama played on a stage so violently plain it becomes as vivid and surprising as an alien planet. I loved Convenience Store Woman: its brevity, its details, its opinions about life.”—Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“I picked up this novel on a trip to Japan and couldn’t put it down. A haunting, dark, and often hilarious take on society’s expectations of the single woman. As an extra bonus, it totally transformed my experience of going to convenience stores in Tokyo.”—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

Convenience Store Woman is a mighty fine book, completely charming. Sayaka Murata is a wonderful writer.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman

“Instructions: Open book. Consume contents. Feel charmed, disturbed, and weirdly in love. Do not discard.”—Jade Chang, author of The Wangs Vs. the World

“This book is not only readable, it is fun, thought-provoking, and at times outrageous and outrageously funny. It is sure to be a standout of the year.”—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

“This novel made me laugh. It was the first time for me to laugh in this way: it was absurd, comical, cute . . . audacious, and precise. It was overwhelming.”—Hiromi Kawakami, author of The Nakano Thrift Shop

“Witty, wily, and astonishingly sharp, Convenience Store Woman proves that the deepest gouges can come from the lightest touch.”—Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies

Convenience Store Woman is snarky and tender. It shows a woman trying to puzzle out how to be normal. This brilliant book will resonate with all of us who find life a little strange.”—Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You

“I think the riskiest kind of novel is the one that tries to rescue us from mundane existence—by taking a closer look at mundane existence . . . In this context, it is easy to say that Murata-san’s novel is a major breakthrough. Convenience Store Woman is not an explosion of candor, but it manages to both be cool to the touch and have depths of warmth in presenting to us a heroine who feels at a remove from the world around her. This is a fine high wire act to walk. One of the finest I have seen in a long time from so young a writer.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

“A hilarious novel . . . Convenience Store Woman mocks the culture of work, the employee’s devotion to their patron saint, and pokes fun at the conservative mindset. For what is a young woman worth if she has neither professional ambition nor a desire to get married?”—Marie-France (France)

“A portrait of the challenge of being different in an ultra-policed society that ostracizes anyone who deviates even slightly from the norm . . . a bittersweet satire.”—Livres-Hebro (France)

“A love story pulled out of the deep-freeze shelves of the heart . . . brilliant . . . not a word too many, nor one too few . . . true love is the simple and beautiful moral of this unusual yet uplifting story.”—Die Zeit (Germany)

“This work merely describes the tiny world of a small box—a convenience store . . . yet it packs all the appeal of a [long] novel. In all my ten-plus years on the panel of judges, this is the first time one of the shortlisted works has had me laughing. And somehow that laugh was charged with a profound sense of irony. Bravo Murata-san!”—Amy Yamada

“I was really amazed by Convenience Store Woman and the particular reality it exquisitely portrays . . . [It] minutely translates the sadness, anguish, grief, grumbles, fateful actions etc. of someone who is incapable of uttering the right words, adding layers of details and spinning them into a story . . . I am sincerely delighted that such a novel has come into being.”—Ryu Murakami

“Choosing to give your novel a narrator who is not normal, someone who is aware that there is something strange about herself, is not an easy choice. Flaunting strangeness as a privilege sometimes repels the reader. But Convenience Store Woman skilfully evades this reaction. When the protagonist, a social outcast, is placed within the box of the artificially normalized convenience store, we begin to vividly see the strangeness of the people in the world outside.”—Yoko Ogawa

“Reading something of a person who starts to work in retail and never figures a way out of doing so, years along in doing so—to something else of possible meaning in life—could make for harrowing reading when the reader would seem to have the same issue. That said, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, while at times harrowing in that the intrepid narrator and heart of this extraordinary novel can’t see or name all that a reader might, is a book of longing, charm, sincerity, and subtle, understated knowing.  It speaks to diligence and duty over time, is one of the rare books that really addresses and embodies work, the routine and rhythms of work in a retail store such as so many people do. A wonderful debut from a writer we hope to read much more of in years to come.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

“This was a quick, quirky little book that I thoroughly enjoyed. A glimpse into the life of a woman who only feels productive and part of society when she’s working in a convenience store. It was unique and like nothing I’ve read before.”—Christine Onorati, WORD Bookstores

“Keiko Furukura has her life figured out. Sure, she’s in her mid-thirties and works in a convenience store, but she loves her job. One day, however, she decides to give in to convention just a little, and her simple life becomes a lot less fun. Convenience Store Woman is a winning blend of the familiar and the absurd, and readers of this deft little novel will enjoy a trip to a Japan that’s well off the tourist trail.”—David Enyeart, Common Good Books

“If you ever wanted to read an existential fable set mostly in a Japanese quick mart, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is the book for you. Narrator Keiko has never been able to figure out quite how the world wants her to act—that is, until she starts working at an all-night convenience store. There, she can finally, happily, be a cog in the machine. Eighteen years later, her family and friends all beg her to move on and be ‘normal.’ Keiko, not knowing what this means or how to do it, then proceeds to make things much worse. Murata’s delightfully strange novel is at once hilarious, profound, and consistently unsettling.”—Danny Caine, Raven Bookstore

“Sometimes touching and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Convenience Store Woman is a delightfully sideways tribute to being yourself, no matter what others might think.”—Rebecca Oppenheimer from Kramerbooks & Afterwords

“Keiko is a real outsider’s outsider, the kind of character that sticks to your ribs, and Murata’s writing grips you . . . I look forward to sharing it with customers the traditional bookseller way (shoving it into people’s hands and exclaiming ‘you’ve got to read this!’).”—Devon Dunn, Book Culture

“A book that belied and subverted all my expectations of a quirky, Office Girl-type novel (not that that would’ve been a bad thing at all) into something far different, somehow unsettling and comforting at the same time. One of those books that I feel will be like a secret code between people who have read it.”—Nathan Halter, The Doylestown Bookshop

“I think that this is a very rare book. A book that kind of unflinchingly looks at the societal pressures that surround and shape all of us as we try to go about our lives. This is a book about Keiko, a woman who honestly does not fit in to what is considered the ‘proper’ way to be. She finds solace and comfort in her work as a convenience store worker where she clearly knows the rules, as there is no manual for regular life. This was at times hilarious but at others poignant and I really appreciated the juxtaposition. I would highly recommend this one to those looking for a new voice; a distinctly feminist voice. Definitely a great find!”—Will Bason, Bookpeople

“How can you not be charmed by the main character of Convenience Store Woman? She knows what she wants out of life, and who is anyone to say she needs anything different? The power of this novel is not in a sweeping landscape or journey, but in its intimacy, humor, and empathy for this very human, knowable woman.”—Tyler Goodson, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

“This strange English debut is an exploration of the psyche of a woman who feels removed from the emotional threads of humanity. Once she recognizes this ‘fault’ in herself, she embraces the freedom that being quiet, and therefore left alone, can bring her. Once in college, she gets a job at a newly opened convenience store and quickly becomes a creature of habit reliant on the redundancy of the store’s sterile environment. The novel picks up with her having worked there for 18 years, and while not ready to make any changes, she is ready to have people stop prying into her life and happiness. This novel is a strong commentary on obsessive work culture, but I recommend it more due to its calculated, removed prose and for the way it creates such a unique narration and set of characters.”—Ely Watson, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore (Madison, WI)

“What an interesting little book! I found myself enchanted with the details of Keiko’s work day and her interactions with her customers and co-workers. A quick, delightful read.”—Beth Seufer, Buss of Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

Convenience Store Woman is an enchanting and unsettling single-sitting read. Murata’s main character reminded me of one of my favorite fictional creations: the butler-narrator, Stevens, from Remains of the Day. Keiko is one of society’s outcasts (single, unmarried, childless, working the same job for 17 years), but her role at the Smile Mart puts her daily in the public eye. Privately, her friends and family pressure her to ‘cure’ herself, and live a more normal life. How she responds to this pressure is surprising. Right in the tonal sweet spot between melancholy and bittersweetly funny, Convenience Store Woman takes a couple hours to read, but will stay with you for a long time.”—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books

“The charming story of a woman who finds what she truly loves, even if it not what others expect.”—Kerry Barringer, Little City Books

“Perfect for fans of The Vegetarian. Fresh and strange and sweet.”—Jolie McCarty, Little City Books

“A funny and thought-provoking look at how much society demands conformity and the strain and stress those demands put on those who cannot. Short and easily readable with a breezy tone, it packs a deceptive punch that makes Murata’s English-language debut perfect for book club discussions.”—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library

Awards

An Indies Introduce Title
An Indie Next Pick
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Elle
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by April Magazine

Excerpt

My present self is formed almost completely of the people around me. I am currently made up of 30 percent Mrs. Izumi, 30 percent Sugawara, 20 percent the manager, and the rest absorbed from past colleagues such as Sasaki, who left six months ago, and Okasaki, who was our supervisor until a year ago.

My speech is especially inflected by everyone around me and is currently a mix of that of Mrs. Izumi and Sugawara. I think the same goes for most people. When some of Sugawara’s band members came into the store recently they all dressed and spoke just like her. After Mrs. Izumi came, Sasaki started sounding just like her when she said, “Good job, see you tomorrow!” Once a woman who had gotten on well with Mrs. Izumi at her previous store came to help out, and she dressed so much like Mrs. Izumi I almost mistook the two. And I probably infect others with the way I speak too. Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human is what I think.

Outside work Mrs. Izumi is rather flashy, but she dresses the way normal women in their thirties do, so I take cues from the brand of shoes she wears and the label of the coats in her locker. Once she left her makeup bag lying around in the back room and I took a peek inside and made a note of the cosmetics she uses. People would notice if I copied her exactly, though, so what I do is read blogs by people who wear the same clothes she does and go for the other brands of clothes and kinds of shawls they talk about buying. Mrs. Izumi’s clothes, accessories, and hairstyles always strike me as the model of what a woman in her thirties should be wearing.

As we were chatting in the back room, her gaze suddenly fell on the ballet flats I was wearing. “Oh, those shoes are from that shop in Omotesando, aren’t they? I like that place too. I have some boots from there.” In the back room she speaks in a languid drawl, the end of her words slightly drawn out. I bought these flats after checking the brand name of the shoes she wears for work while she was in the toilet.